Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

Oct 4, 2018

St. Joseph’s/Candler Infection Control and Prevention Manager addresses concerns about getting the flu shot

The weather outside may still feel like summer, but flu season is here and now is the time to get the flu vaccine.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu can cause mild to severe symptoms, including high fever, sore throat, muscle ache, headache and possible vomiting and diarrhea.

Carolyn CraigFlu season typically runs from October to late April. Flu vaccinations are available beginning at the end of September.

“It’s important to get the flu vaccine to not only protect yourself, but also to protect others around you because the flu is so contagious,” says Carolyn Craig, St. Joseph’s/Candler Infection Control and Prevention Manager. “You can spread the flu to anybody within approximately six feet because it can spread through coughing and sneezing.”

Related Article: Who should get the flu shot? Everyone.

Concerned about getting the flu vaccine? Craig has some reassuring information to help encourage everyone to get the flu shot.

Question: Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

Craig: It cannot. The flu vaccine does not give you the flu because it’s not a live virus, unless you get the nasal spray vaccine, which is a live virus. Some people may already be infected with the flu and not realize it. The flu vaccine does take up to two weeks after the vaccination for the body to develop immune protection.

Some people may have a minor reaction to the shot – sore arm, achiness. Taking Tylenol before or right after you get the shot can help people with the aches.

Question: Is it fair to say that symptoms of the flu are a lot worse than getting the shot?

Craig: Yes, because the flu hits you hard and fast. It knocks you down. You can’t force yourself to get up and go when you are hit with the flu. Like I said, some people may experience soreness, even swelling or redness, following the flu shot, but it’s nothing like the flu. The flu is bad – the aches, fever, cough, sore throat, chills. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced it. It’s rough.

Question: I’ve never had the flu before so why do I need the shot?

Craig: Just because you have never had the flu before doesn’t mean you can’t get it any given year. We encourage the flu vaccine for everybody to protect themselves and help protect the people around them. Anybody is susceptible to the flu. It is recommended from six-months-old to as old as we get.

Question: What if I do not like needles? Do I have any other options?

Craig: The nasal spray flu vaccine is an option this year. That’s not the case every year because it depends on the vaccine itself and what can be made. The nasal spray vaccine is not for everyone. The CDC recommends nasal spray use for individuals ages two through 49 and with no history of certain medical conditions. The nasal spray vaccination would need to be recommended by your doctor.

If you do not qualify for the nasal vaccination or it’s not available, but you are still wary of needles, I think it’s helpful to let your healthcare provider know about your fear. That way the person giving you the shot can help walk you through that. Nurses have a way of comforting and even distracting people when they are giving an injection.

Now is the time to get your flu vaccine. Vaccinations are available at almost every neighborhood pharmacy, as well as your doctor’s office. Flu shots also are available through the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Medication Management

The Georgia Department of Public Health – Coastal Health District also offers flu shots at your county health department, as well as at several drive-thru/walk-in clinics. Find those details and dates here

Related Article: There’s no excuse. Now is the time to get the flu vaccine. 

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